Marijuana Decriminalization In New Hampshire
Yesterday was one of the most interesting days in the New Hampshire House's history in regards to marijuana. The end result of the final vote for New Hampshire House Bill 1526 was a passage by one vote (162-161). New Hampshire House Bill 1526 would decriminalize possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana.
The first two times an offender is caught with up to a half-ounce of marijuana, the offender would be charged with a violation and fined. The first fine would be up to $250 and the second fine up to $500. A third violation would result in a misdemeanor crime, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The bill now goes to the Senate. The House also killed another bill (overwhelmingly, 228-89) set to legalize and regulate marijuana.
I read an article about the decriminalization bill's passage on the Concord Monitor that had some of the craziest reefer madness quotes that I have heard politicians say in awhile. Some quotes from the Concord Monitor in support of the bill are excerpted below:
"This is a calculated, measured reduction in the penalties for possession," said Rep. Kyle Tasker, a Nottingham Republican.
"This bill only applies to simple possession of a small amount of marijuana," said Rep. Mark Warden, a Manchester Republican who co-sponsored the legislation. "The experience of nearby states that have reduced penalties on possession have led to a net positive impact on taxpayers, saved a lot of money and reduced court overload."
That's right, New Hampshire Republicans led the fight on this bill, and I really hope that attitude continues to spread throughout the GOP nationwide. I have always pointed out that Republicans claim to stand for less government, and it's a breathe of fresh air to finally see them walk the walk when it comes to marijuana policy.
New Hampshire has long been considered a very maverick, aisle jumping state which is proven by their open primary system that allows pretty much anyone to vote on any side of the political aisle as they choose. I've always thought that resulted in a more logical minded political system, since people didn't have to be loyal to their parties as much. However, there were two quotes in the Concord Monitor article that display an opposite result. I will address them one at a time.
New Hampshire Representative Steve Shurtleff, a Democrat from Penacook, voted for marijuana decriminalization in 2010. He claimed during the bill's debate that he supports marijuana decriminalization. However, he voted against the bill yesterday. The reason he provided to the Concord Monitor?
"For a young person to have one or two joints and not get a criminal record I support," he said. "But when somebody is carrying around 20 or 30 joints, they've crossed the line and now they're going into sales and distribution. That is not something that this body should endorse." This seems to be a growing trend among politicians that are not smart enough to debate marijuana policy rationally.
Rather than measure marijuana in grams like law enforcement does, like marijuana consumers do, like the law itself does, etc, these politicians try to demonize marijuana by changing the perception of how much marijuana is involved. What sounds like more, 14 grams, or 30 joints? This is so misleading, especially to people that don't know much about marijuana, and I wish someone would directly call out New Hampshire Representative Steve Shurtleff for being such a stupid idiot, and a fear monger...oh wait, did I just do that? Oops...
"If we pass a bill like this in New Hampshire, we send a very mixed message to residents of the state of New Hampshire which could cost them dearly should they be caught with this controlled substance." said Rep. Ken Kreis, a Canterbury Republican who was referring to federal penalties. Many state level politicians will always cling to the fact that the federal government does not recognize state marijuana laws. I always point out to these closet neo-cons that they were elected to serve at the state level.
Now I know that New Hampshire Representative Ken Kreis has visions of making it to Washington D.C. someday, but the fact remains that Rep. Kreis was elected to do a different job, which is at the state level. When New Hampshire Representative Ken Kreis wins a federal election, then Rep. Kreis can worry about what the feds do. But for now New Hampshire Representative Ken Kreis, how about you just do the job you were elected to do?
Canterbury "Republican" Ken Kreis, are you truly a Republican? Last time I checked, true conservatives believed in things like state sovereignty, state’s rights, smaller government, and individual liberty. I guess those beliefs only apply to things that fit the political loyalties and financial interests that you truly believe in.